Cross-Over Points

Most of us live in mul­ti­ple worlds simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, the world of our pro­fes­sion­al life and our per­son­al life prob­a­bly the most obvi­ous exam­ple. Much of the time this com­part­men­tal­iz­ing helps us main­tain bal­ance, but some­times it also cre­ates a per­son with mul­ti­ple souls, none of which is entire­ly ful­filled. Inso­far as we man­age the bal­ance, there may be a sense that life is good, but there is anoth­er way of look­ing, which is to focus on indi­vid­ual uni­ty across the bound­ary lines. Some­times, for exam­ple, if I am using some type of tem­pera­ment inven­to­ry with clients, I am asked how best to answer the ques­tions. “Should I answer these about the per­son I am at work, or answer them about the per­son at home?” It is inter­est­ing, isn’t it, that our work and home per­son­al­i­ties might vary so much.

What is of spe­cial inter­est to me is the one who is the same in both envi­ron­ments, the one who shows up in the tran­sit between the worlds. This is the per­son who has left the office or left the plant but isn’t home yet. It’s the per­son who has left home but not yet arrived. Who is this person?

Some years ago, I trav­eled a great deal for my work. I trav­eled so much to Madi­son, Wis­con­sin where I had a num­ber of clients — and ulti­mate­ly friends — that I felt I was liv­ing two lives. The only place that real­ly seemed like my own real space was on an air­craft. There I could think just for me; I did­n’t have to be any­where else; I was in the mid­dle pas­sage. Once I real­ized this I stopped work­ing on planes, and I also stopped doing chores such as pay­ing my bills. I began to more thor­ough­ly enjoy the tran­si­tion, an anony­mous per­son. I enjoyed the plea­sure of being a ticket.

Some­times, metaphor­i­cal­ly, I think we get on planes and yet we don’t know where we are going. The tran­si­tion, the tick­et is the thing — maybe the ques­tion we are try­ing to answer. I met a woman not too long enough who found at a cer­tain point she just want­ed out of her high-lev­el assis­tant to the pres­i­dent role for some­thing dif­fer­ent. So she sold her house and most of her pos­ses­sions and bought a one way tick­et from Min­neso­ta to Chile. She had nev­er been there, had no con­tacts, and did­n’t even know Span­ish. She just went. A few years lat­er, she found her­self buy­ing anoth­er tick­et, this time to Bolivia, and so on…These are to me cross-over points, where the soul is free pre­cise­ly because it is in tran­si­tion. There is anx­i­ety but also excite­ment. There is a sense of self like no oth­er, and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a ques­tion of per­son­al iden­ti­ty. Who is the per­son fly­ing? Some­times we proud­ly and pub­licly cross to the oth­er side of some­thing in full day­light; some­times we sneak across the bound­aries in the dark. It’s as if we can’t live with the stone of sta­bil­i­ty alone. We must also have water, the sym­bol of tran­si­tion and of tran­science, cut­ting through our lives and our work, through the stone of adopt­ed iden­ti­ty to find some­thing even more fun­da­men­tal below.

With­out such a sense of the water that flows, a work-life bal­ance does­n’t seem like it makes much sense to me. It can’t be just a bal­ance; it always includes a tran­si­tion that is itself a world of its own. I sense this place is some­times the most vital part of a per­son, a place where an indi­vid­ual is open, reflec­tive, hun­gry for the down­hill run, the thrust over the falls. It’s no sur­prise that some­times strangers on planes have very per­son­al con­ver­sa­tions, or sud­den­ly find them­selves in a group of peo­ple (as I have a time or two) who can’t stop laughing.

Most of my con­tri­bu­tion in the world is actu­al­ly when those I help are in tran­si­tion between their worlds: work — home, pro­fes­sion­al — per­son­al, past — future, this career — that career, man­ag­er — leader. Some­times, for exam­ple, when asked to help a super­vi­sor or man­ag­er who is in trou­ble, I may ask why that indi­vid­ual has set up the sit­u­a­tion to cre­ate such a pow­er­ful per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al chal­lenge at that moment. This is often help­ful because it changes the con­text of the con­ver­sa­tion from “I am in trou­ble,” to “Hmmm, I seem to have brought cir­cum­stances on myself in order to learn some­thing.” So then the con­ver­sa­tion can change to be about deep­er life-learn­ing, not sim­ply get­ting out of an embar­rass­ing or oth­er­wise dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. The whole sit­u­a­tion could move in moment from intel­lec­tu­al prob­lem-solv­ing and blame to a deep­er jour­ney about mean­ing and pres­ence, qual­i­ties held at those pre­cious cross-over points called insights. But who is the per­son who has these insights that bridge the worlds?

I con­tin­ue to find it fas­ci­nat­ing that about one third of the hits to this weblog come from search­es for “lead­er­ship poems” or very sim­i­lar words. They come from peo­ple all over the world. Yet I don’t real­ly know what any giv­en per­son is look­ing for. Is it inspi­ra­tion from a famous leader? Or is it to wake up some part of that per­son­’s own lead­er­ship self? A google search, sim­ple as it is, could point to an inner cross-over point, too. Sim­ply putting the search out there to the cyber uni­verse — and real uni­verse, too: “lead­er­ship poems,” “poems about lead­ers,” “lead­er­ship poem,” “poem abut lead­er­ship,” etc., etc. appar­ent­ly can make a dif­fer­ence. I’d like to think these words are an invi­ta­tion to touch some des­ti­na­tion not yet defined, meant espe­cial­ly to find the water that wears down the stone and, like all expe­ri­ence of the heart, con­nects every­thing as it splits the stone grad­u­al­ly in two.

Photo Credits: First three by Dan; the fourth by daughter, Victoria

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  • Part of me is grin­ning on the inside, Dan. I’m self-employed, but work out of an exter­nal office a cou­ple of days a week. I’m here in this office, know­ing I should be doing my oth­er work, and I’m read­ing your beau­ti­ful post instead. I’m very con­scious late­ly of want­i­ng to bring more of inner self to to all of my life, includ­ing my work­ing life. The “com­part­ment” divi­sion between work and per­son­al can feel stifling.

    There is val­ue in under­stand­ing that there is also a place between these worlds wher­er we reside. Call­ing it a “cross over point” gives it more sig­nif­i­cance than labelling it a “tran­si­tion.” It will be enlight­en­ing for me to explore who I am being in this “cross over” place.

  • The ‘com­part­ment’ divi­sion between work and per­son­al can feel stifling.”

    Thank you for stop­ping by, Deb. I agree with your line about com­part­men­tal­iza­tion — it’s true for me, too — and it kind of begs the ques­tion about what it means to man­age a bal­ance rather than “live from one soul.” 

    In a relat­ed way, some­one once told me that phys­i­o­log­i­cal­ly from about 5 PM to 7 PM is a typ­i­cal cross-over time. That’s when we expe­ri­ence feel­ings we haven’t allowed ear­li­er in the day and expe­ri­ence our exhaus­tion before mov­ing to a dif­fer­ent mode in the lat­er evening. It’s the time we usu­al­ly have a drink and chill out. How fas­ci­nat­ing that our worlds are this divid­ed. Who is this per­son who needs the drink? What does it do?

  • Michael Piper wrote:


    Have the strength
    to be a real

    That rare
    Man or woman
    Who always keeps

    Even an angel needs rest.
    Integri­ty cre­ates a body so vast

    A thou­sand winged ones will

    May I lay my cheek


  • Thanks for shar­ing this beau­ti­ful and apro­pos poem, Mike. It’s touch­ing, isn’t it, that a poet from the 14th cen­tu­ry speaks so elo­quent­ly to the trou­ble being one per­son (one mean­ing for the word, “integri­ty”). Indeed, such action must attract the angels.…

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